I’m not easily shocked nor am I easily offended. I see episodes of social media outrage come & go, mostly I can stand back from them having put whatever the issue is into rational perspective & context.
I don’t sign ridiculous online petitions at the drop of a hat, I don’t stand outside television or newspaper offices demanding someone/anyone be sacked for something/anything, I don’t trawl through social media looking for strangers I disagree with so I can attack them in an ad hominem manner & I don’t even try to get blogs banned by Facebook because they happen to clash with my personal political point of view.
(I do occasionally post political/football things on social media with the express intent of winding certain people up in the hope they’ll take the bait but that’s only because I like them & I know they can take it – disappointingly they’ve mostly stopped taking the bait).
However, in saying that, I’m struggling with the current episode of Twitter outrage. I read Katie Hopkins latest column in The Sun last night & I was shocked, I was offended, I was outraged. It is nothing short of a full-blown neo-fascist rant about immigrants & immigration. It uses language that is absolutely appalling (as The Independent puts it, language that “might give Hitler pause”). “Cockroaches”, “feral humans”, “a norovirus”, Some British “towns are festering sores” because of immigration. It disgusted me as I read it & that disgust has not subsided in the hours since. It is certainly the worst & most offensive opinion piece I have ever read in a mainstream British newspaper. I genuinely felt shocked, despite my extremely low opinion of it as a newspaper already, that The Sun felt it suitable for publication.
However, here’s the rub, I believe strongly in the right of free speech so do I think it shouldn’t have been published at all? I can’t entirely decide. It would be naive to think that Katie Hopkins is the only person in Britain to hold the views she has expressed – the surge in support for UKIP in recent years, or EDL marches, or the existence of the BNP, tells us that she is far from alone. It would also be naive to believe that concerns and/or fear over immigration are limited to the right wing of the political spectrum – they certainly are not. People who hold these views are as entitled to free speech as anyone else. I do think there’s a line though & that line comes somewhere before what is being said amounting to plain incitement of racial hatred. Does Katie Hopkins’ column cross that line? If it doesn’t then it’s exceptionally close. I’m certainly uncomfortable with it being presented to The Sun’s 2 million readers as a palatable, acceptable & orthodox point of view but then I also choose not to sneer at ‘other’ people & I choose to have faith in people’s ability to make up their own mind. I have no idea who else writes a column in The Sun but I hope someone writes something in there that brings even a modicum of balance to the topic.
For me, balance is the key here. Many on Twitter are advocating ignoring Katie Hopkins as the best approach to silencing her. She has forged quite a career out of saying outrageous things that garner attention & therefore starving her of that attention may well be the way to go but I don’t think I agree with that anymore, not this time, not on this subject. Immigration has become the dominant political issue of the last few years in this country & those who (even moderately) tend towards the side of Katie Hopkins are winning the argument. It’s time the baseless fear-mongering anti-immigration arguments are tackled head on & stopped in their tracks rather than pandered to by all political parties. It’s time the strong, positive pro-immigration arguments were brought to the fore & shouted from the rooftops by all those in a position to do so. I’m not about to detail them all here because I’m far too lazy & shoddy as a blogger to properly research & then present them accurately (I apologise for that but you can use Google just as easily as I can – start with the net fiscal contribution of immigrants to the UK economy then perhaps move on to the important impact immigration has on the running of the NHS).
My personal view based on my own principles & my own morality is that I’m really not overly concerned about mass immigration. Is Britain becoming more & more of a multi-cultural society? Perhaps. Probably. If it is, good. Come one, come all. I tend towards the view that we are all the same species, we are all human beings. Living on a rock. Over thousands of years we have quarrelled & fought over arbitrary borders. We continue to do so in every corner of the globe in a way that achieves very little other than abject misery & death. Again, I am not naive. I appreciate there are legitimate concerns over immigration that are not founded on the basis of racism or xenophobia or fascism. Too often though I think immigration has been presented as the catch-all root cause of all our ills when I’m not convinced it is necessarily the central problem of any of them. As a country we are not building enough social or affordable housing, we are cutting public spending irresponsibly & far too harshly, workers are being underpaid & underemployed, the vulnerable are being attacked (including immigrants) to enable the driveways of the greedy to be paved with gold. That’s not because of immigration, that’s a Conservative government acting true to form & riding roughshod over the country we live in. In the mire of all of this there probably is something approaching the right answer to immigration but I think that answer should come from a compassionate, humantarian & welcoming place rather than one of mistrust & demonisation.
Katie Hopkins’ column presents an idea of a society that I don’t wish to live in. A spiteful, hate-filled, introverted & uncivilised society. The Sun newspaper revels in prejudice & profiteers off the back of it. This futile blog absolutely amounts only to spitting in their general direction but I felt it was something I had to do. Silently ignoring them only allows their bile to fester & grow. Damn them both to hell.
And finally, if you find yourself reading her column & nodding in agreement then, know this, I respect your right to your own opinion but I don’t want to know you, not even remotely. As the very funny & talented Robert Florence often proclaims, “Love Will Win”. I believe that.